Coffee Cans Full of Money

coffee cansCoffee cans, old trunks, books, drawers and anything else that a person could use to stash some cash should be gone through thoroughly before any estate sale, or disposing of property for any decedent’s or protected persons estate. Why? Because sometimes you can discover thousands of dollars in cash or valuables that even the family did not know existed.

steamer trunkMany years ago, I was appointed by the court as a trustee over a decedent’s testamentary trust. A testamentary trust is a trust that is created by a person’s will to the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. The estate had little money and few assets. By the time I entered the picture the house been sold but a plethora of personal property remained.  The estate had placed the personal property of the decedent in storage and it was time to transfer it to the trust and figure out if any of it could be sold or if it should be given back to the family. That storage unit was a treasure chest in disguise.

The decedent’s spouse had died over 20 years before her. He had had a healthy distrust for banks.  After his death his old steamer trunks sat in the garage untouched gathering dust, spiders, and cobwebs. No keys could be found for them which was probably the reason. Once the locks were drilled I discovered old coffee cans, tins and small boxes full of money rolls – mostly twenties. In the end the trust more than doubled in value from the money hidden in those two old trunks.

Rolls of Money

For whatever reason – a distrust of banks, a need to hide money from others, or just a compulsion – many of the elderly take to hiding cash around their house. There have been other estates where money was found in china cabinets, old shoe boxes, dresser drawers, and the like. So it is always a good idea to check out everything before you sell it, toss it, or give it away. You never know if Aunt Dotty or Uncle Joe liked to hide money and you could be giving away thousands without knowing.

old booksIt is tedious to go through everything, and many times people are still dealing with their own grief which makes the job that much more difficult. Hidden in the piles of seemingly worthless gadgets, suitcases, and more can be treasures which would enhance the value of the estate. Items like hand sewn or homemade quilts, limited edition figurines or books, old dolls or toys, old furniture may have more value than you realize. Not everything you find will be valuable, but you may find items for keepsakes which hold value in more than just money.

old quiltWritten by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for

Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way

WillA common question is why does a person need a Last Will and Testament. There are many reasons and some of them you may not realize. Whether it is to make sure your property and your remains are taken care of in the manner you would like or to make a record of what your desires are without interference of the courts.

Many people deed their real estate into joint tenancy with rights of survivorship with their children or whomever they wish to inherit the property. They wish to avoid probate court, attorney costs and “hassle”. However, in doing this their heirs may be subject to capital gains taxes that they could possibly have avoided by selling the house or land through an estate. In addition, depending on when the house or land is deeded to others it can affect your qualification for benefits such as Medicaid to help with your long-term care. Other complications can include difficulties obtaining a reverse mortgage, debates about mental competency of the person giving away the property or undue influence on that person by those listed on the deed.


Probate need not cost an arm and a leg, depending on the work needed to be done, the Personal Representative’s willingness to shoulder the majority of the work and how much property, real or personal, you have at the time of your passing. Having a Will gives your heirs direction and takes the guess-work out of what they think “Grandma” or “Dad” would want done. It relieves them of the burden of trying to figure out what you would have wanted done. Another advantage is that your wishes are clear and must be followed.

If you pass without a Will you risk every action taken by you prior to your death being questioned and children or friends who have helped you being grilled about how they have taken advantage of you. It can lead to greater litigation when truly people should be grieving and not fighting. Also depending on who out lives you, you may not want your estate to be divided according to the Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 15. Dying without a Will could mean that the Court will divide up your property according to who the law says gets top priority if that your parents or your spouse or your children. This becomes complicated when you have remarried and your children are not the children of your current spouse.

Divide the Pie

Information needed to make a Will is simple: names, addresses and dates of birth for all heirs; knowing what property and accounts you own, as well as, life insurance policies, annuities, etc.; having one person to handle carrying out your Will and a back up in case the person you choose cannot act as your Personal Representative; and an idea of how you want things to be done. A good lawyer can advise you on if your estate will have to pay taxes or how best to handle leaving funds to persons with disabilities or minors.

Making a Will is painless and, in the long run, cost-effective. Costs of having a Will drafted will depend on how complicated you want your estate plan. In the end, what it saves is guess-work, frustration and a heavier burden for those already grieving your passing.

Written by June F. Bourrillion, Esq. for